In your view, how is a digitally networked world increasing or decreasing human freedom and autonomy?
Once I went to talk by Felice on autonomy, and he did a terrible job inventing these two girls, one of which is autonomous and one who was not. When asked if certain decisions made by the less autonomous woman would then /make/ her more autonomous, he stated that she would never do that and it didn't matter. When asked if certain decisions made by the more autonomous woman would make her less autonomous, he skirted the subject saying she's not really sure what she wants to do.
Therefore, I can't look at "autonomy" as not being a function 1) of birth (more autonomous was middle class american, less autonomous was indoctrinated indian woman) and 2) of personality. Therefore... it doesn't really matter to me. I see no value in being autonomous in the sense Felice described.
However, based on that, the internet would undoubtedly be allowing for more autonomy, providing people with more information outside their worldview, if they chose to look at it.
I think I can help clarify a bit about Filice's notion of autonomy, since I've taken three Phil classes with him and I myself subscribe to very similar metaphysical libertarian ideas.
First, know that Filice is indeed what is called a metaphysical libertarian, which means that he believes in a robust form of free will (in Philosophy, libertarian means something different than what it means in politics). However, it would be erroneous for an intellectually honest philosopher to not acknowledge that biological and social forces influence one's autonomy, and inf act, a priori, 100% full autonomy is impossible b/c an agent would have to create its own intrinsic motives w/o any foundation for its decision-making, thus making the initial decision random and therefore not autonomous. Acknowledging all of that, Filice proposes a model of human autonomy which is described in pages 92-96 of his article, "On the Autonomy of the Divine" (I agree he's not the best at being clear in speech all the time, but his writing is very good. He is an excellent philosopher):
An important definition for a key term in those 4 pages:
agent-credit = “The credit for accomplishments of various sorts that are achieved through free and autonomous libertarian authorship.”
I think the best way to understand a possible philosophical definition would be to read those four pages of Filice's paper (the entire paper is really an argument for the autonomy of a divine entity of some kind, so it's not totally relevant to our class). When I'm feeling more up to it I can/will come back and offer an even shorter summary of Filice's model.
When I first looked at this I thought "OMG TL;DR". Thank you though, because it did clarify my understanding of Filice's "autonomy".
And reminded me that I hate philosophy and I don't care at ALL for autonomy.
Ah, freedom and autonomy, the most central issue to my own personal philosophical work. As I said, I am a metaphysical libertarian, so I believe in free will (not without reason) and reject the proposition that all of our thoughts and actions are determined. With that out of the way, what does digital technology do to the problem of free will and determinism? Assuming we are in any way meaningfully free and autonomous, how does a digitally networked world change our levels of freedom?
I think there's truth to what Meghan wrote, that "the internet would undoubtedly be allowing for more autonomy, providing people with more information outside their worldview, if they chose to look at it." Of course, that last part's tricky. A person has to choose to consume information (as information becomes comodified we talk more and more about it being consumed) in many cases, though there will be instances when mediums of information communication are pervasive enough to penetrate the most impermeable social obstacles. Then, there's the issue of fitting new information into existing belief systems. Any model of human autonomy must (in my view, as well as the view of multiple libertarians like Filice, though not in the minds of all philosophers that believe in free will) include a form of autonomous self-reflection, or what Filice calls "reflective dynamism." The agent must be able to reflect on its own actions, find the sources/motivations of those actions, and identify as the source of those motivations. When an agent acquires new information, it must have the capacity to reflect on its own belief system and, through reasoning, decide how the new information fits (or doesn't!) into its current set of beliefs. So, what this means is that there is a level of autonomy necessary in the first place in order to make use of this new information as a medium through which one can augment one's capacity for autonomy. Insofar as that is true, the internet can certainly increase freedom, but only if it interjects into the mind of an agent already capable of meaningful self-reflection.
To speak in generalities now, technology, especially digital networking, offers us opportunities to exchange information and mitigate for socially deterministic forces in assisting people all over the world in gaining tools to augment their own autonomy while also allowing for widespread control of large amounts of people (I'm thinking of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, as always). Technology also opens up a potential level of separation from meaningful introspection in that it is another medium in which one can engage in performances of surrogacy in order to avoid potentially painful self-criticism. But that's kind of a long, long discussion which going to take place in my final capstone paper...
"while also allowing for widespread control of large amounts of people (I'm thinking of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, as always)."
In thinking about 1984, I always think that it was never the technology that controlled people. It was always the system and the people in charge, who merely utilized the technology to heighten their control. In fact, I think the wars were how BB really asserted his control, and not the technology. They didn't need any of it. Constantly putting their citizens in threat mode kept them docile and afraid, unable to question BB.
I mean, all of those creations from 1984 could (and do, kind of) exist without the facet of mental domination.
As I always have, I think any loss of freedom would be a factor of the people involved, merely aided or slowed by the technology. I think, specifically about World War Two. In a way, the Third Reich was it's own 1984, and they didn't need tvs that could see into people's homes.